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The agent experience, empathy fatigue and reducing your contact center’s turnover rate

The agent experience, empathy fatigue and reducing your contact center’s turnover rate
Thibaud Pietri
Thibaud Pietri Chief Product Officer

There are hard and soft costs associated with contact center turnover, the rates of which have been rising in recent years. Focusing on agent-centric issues, such as empathy fatigue, could help you stem the tide of agent attrition. Read on to find out how to ease burnout, turnover and further costs.

November 23, 2021 3 min of reading

Turnover rates are a primary concern of contact centers the world over. If you are reading this post, chances are this issue concerns you at least a little. You’re right to be concerned – a report by ContactBabel shows that agent attrition rates have been rising since 2013. What’s more, the larger a contact center is, the more it stands to lose from high turnover rates.

The Harvard Business Review reports that organizational costs of employee turnover can cost as much as 300% of an employee’s salary. All of this means that, depending on your contact center’s capacity, the damage to your bottom line could reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Getting back to even doesn’t happen quickly either, as it can take as long as eight months to get a new employee to reach full productivity. The hard costs of agent attrition are stark and serious.

Symmetry of attention and its role in agent attrition

Aside from those obvious hard costs, there are soft costs because you may be forced to spread your staff thin to cover the loss of labor. These soft costs come in the form of:

  • The disruption of smooth operations,
  • Difficulty meeting KPIs such as call handling times,
  • Customer dissatisfaction,
  • Poor morale among staff.

The conventional approach to reducing contact center turnover rates would be to fix the first three in that list and expect the subsequent benefits to trickle down to agents helming the phones. However, in recent years, the overall focus in management has shifted to providing an improved employee experience alongside providing quality customer service. What implications does this approach have for easing agent attrition?

The thinking goes that happy employees make for happy customers, so it makes total sense to ensure symmetry of attention. Both are (as every one of us) human beings after all. Focusing on getting results, as well as the experience of the agents getting you those results, will pay dividends in both the short and long run and turn the tide on high rates of contact center turnover. Achieving that symmetry, however, requires something of a shift in perspective of how your contact center is run.

Employee-centric issues that contribute to contact center turnover rates

Make no mistake, customer service can be demanding and stressful, and at the end of the day that stress is a top reason for high contact center turnover rates. One of the key contributors to that stress is monotony; if your contact center relies on scripts to interact with customers, requiring that agents stick closely to unnatural-sounding copy is a major pain point for all involved. Excessive monitoring and prodding to stay on-script compounds this pain, making staff feel more like animals in a zoo than contributors to your contact center’s goals. In order to provide excellent customer service, agents need the freedom to communicate, emote and empathize fluidly with your customer base. Moreover, your customers respond better to talking to an agent who sounds like a human being and cares about the issues affecting them.

Empathy is a key part of the agent-customer relationship. On the other hand, heightened contact center turnover rates can also be attributed to empathy fatigue. When agents emotionally engage with a customer and their problems for extended periods of time without pause, it can lead them to disengage, which could lead to further attrition. Possible steps to reduce burnout include lightening the load of agents by putting emphasis on monotasking rather than multitasking, reducing schedule unpredictability and even regularly showing agents that they are appreciated.

Tools that can help lower contact center turnover rates

Addressing the employee-centric issues of high turnover requires a second look at attitudes toward your contact center’s agents and their workloads. The search for solutions can also greatly benefit from implementing forward-thinking software into your workflow. You can improve the quality of your agents’ experiences by giving them choice and diversity in their tasks, and reduce time spent scheduling on the management end. OdigoTM integrates with workforce management software solutions that boost contact center performance and help reduce the likelihood of turnover. For creating assisted, fully customized channel-free strategies and solutions, as well as application integration and interfacing, Odigo has recently been named a global Leader in the ISG Provider Lens™ Contact Center as a Service 2021 report.

Thibaud Pietri
Chief Product Officer

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